Work Life Balance: Live to Support Work, or Work to Support Life
Two big milestones happened this week. First, after over three months, I got my haircut. It was a bit surreal doing so while wearing a mask. Watching the barber pull the mask straps off my giant ears as she trimmed was very odd. Second, and most importantly, my wife and I had our first date night in what seems like forever! Not just any date, we made it to one of our favorite restaurants in the world (Steve and Cookies in Margate, NJ). It was a special night and just what the doctor ordered. Anyone else finally venture out as things open up a little?
The other day, I was interviewed for a podcast. (Definitely a pretty cool experience.) One question came up, which I thought was worth sharing. The interviewer asked me, “what is the one piece of financial planning advice that you would give people?”
It’s a serious question and it’s hard to distill 20 years of financial advice into one little nugget, but I gave it my best shot. I said,
“most people live to support work, when I believe we should do a better job of working to support life.”
What do I mean by this?
Work Life Balance
I’ve noticed that most of us graduate and get a job. That job takes us in many directions and drags our life with it. This job moves us around the country, dictates the lifestyle we lead, and ends up consuming our lives. Most of us work long hours and our lives support our work. Our family and lifestyle adjust around our work. Even our happiness revolves around our careers.
If you sit back and think for a minute, you’ll realize two things. One, that I’m right. And two, how messed up that is.
I’m as much a workaholic as anyone, so this advice comes with a real dose of my own medicine. Why is it we put all this effort into prioritizing work and shifting our lives around it? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? What if we listened to this advice and did the opposite? What is most important to you and your family? What makes you happy and speaks to your morals? Basically, what career would allow you to prioritize life first and let the job support you in the way you want to live?
Let’s play it out for a moment, shall we? You find a job that speaks to what you want to be doing nine hours a day (meaning, not simply the first job you can get). Next, you really focus on you and your family. You take the time to pontificate the lifestyle you want to provide. This can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, which is why it’s such a beautiful thing. Finally, live that life first and let the job settle in around it to provide you that ideal lifestyle.
How would your life change if you took this advice? Would you travel more or work less? Would you coach kids’ sports teams or buy a second home? The possibilities are endless, but the key to them all is they’ll speak to the life you want to live.
I wonder what you’re feeling as you picture this happening? Is it angst, because you can’t fathom not putting work first? Or is it sadness, because you realize you’ve been putting the emphasis on the wrong part of your life?
Honestly, what I’m hoping for is a feeling of hope and clarification. My purpose in writing this is to give us all, me included, something to ponder. In a world of constant self-evolving, if we can start to make adjustments, even small ones, to support our lives and happiness first, what would that look like?
My hope is that it’ll leave us with a little more enrichment and a little more fulfillment. Isn’t that what it’s all about (and dinner at Steve and Cookies)?